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Forbidden Love in a Country in Turmoil - an Editorial Review of "The Sand Vines"

The Sand Vines book cover

Book Blurb:

Bordeaux 1870 - Life is hard on the moor.

If Flore, a shepherd's daughter, is not married by autumn she must go into service and lose everything she holds dear.

Back from the French army, the dashing Ricar has set her heart and body on fire. Will he propose to her before it is too late?

Martial, the viscount's son, adores Flore from afar, aware that she can never be his. When a betrayal and a forest fire put Flore's life in danger, Martial seizes his chance, grabs Flore's hand and takes her to safety in Paris, hoping they might start afresh. But war looms.

Will it bring them together or tear them apart?

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Author Bio:

Michele Callard author photo

MICHELE CALLARD writes fast-paced fiction with hint of romance for those who love France and like to learn from their reading.

France evokes a patchwork of provinces bursting with local colour, flavours and history. In her novels, Michèle Callard has selected the most unusual ones.

Michèle grew up in France but swapped her Parisian flat for a Bedfordshire cottage she shares with her Irish husband and one of her three sons. Fascinated by the way people live, she always stays with locals when travelling around the world.

The Bear and the Basque is a fun mystery set in the Pyrenees. The Wolf’s Legacy, a historical novel, will sweep you from WW2 to the present as Orla searches for her mysterious ancestors in the Cévennes mountains. With Born Under the Wrong Sun, you will fly to the Caribbean and meet an incredible cast of characters.

Pack your bags and lose yourself in Michèle's gorgeous fiction.

Bon voyage!

Editorial Review:

"The Sand Vines" by Michele Callard is a captivating novel that explores deep themes of

love, sacrifice, and tradition in a rural setting in 19th-century Bordeaux. The book introduces

us to the life of Flore, a young woman facing existential dilemmas and crucial decisions for

her and her family's future.

Flore, the main character, finds herself in a desperate situation: if she does not marry by

November, her family will lose their home, and she will have to enter into service. This

tension is masterfully portrayed through evocative descriptions of the landscape and the

community life in Noirac. The reader feels the intensity of Flore's dilemma and her hopes

that are shattered and rebuilt throughout the novel: „‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, please let

me find a good husband . . . I swore to Mama I would never go into service. Please let me

find a good man.’”This simple and sincere prayer reveals the enormous pressure Flore feels

and her deep desire to honor the promise made to her mother despite the difficult


The return of Ricar, Flore's childhood sweetheart, further complicates the situation. After five

years of military service, he returns a changed man, but the love between him and Flore

remains alive. The scene where Ricar reunites with Flore is filled with emotion and tension:

Ricar was back. He had returned on Midsummer’s Day. Oh yes, she would dance with

everyone, but there was only one man with whom she would jump over the fire, and at last,

at long last, he was home.” This passage emphasizes the depth of their bond and Flore's

renewed hope that Ricar might be the solution to her problems.

Another remarkable aspect of the novel is the internal conflict of Father Martial, who

struggles between his religious duty and his feelings for Flore. Through this character,

Callard addresses themes of morality, faith, and social responsibility. One of the central

moments of the story is the conversation between Father Martial and Prosper about the wine

that must be kept cool to prevent spoiling. This scene evokes local traditions and the

importance of wine for their community. Prosper reminds Colin, the young helper, of his

responsibility to press the grapes, a task that belonged to his deceased father. This family

legacy symbolizes the deep connection to the land and family traditions.

Meanwhile, Flore, the main character, navigates through a series of difficult events. The

Viscount, a local nobleman, threatens to take away the little that remains of her family's

possessions. Flore, along with Nanette and Aunt Honorina, prepares for the autumn festival

in Marcillac, where they hope to find some solace and community amidst their trials.

Another climax of the novel is when Flore discovers in the church at Marcillac that Ricar

Guyon, her former lover, is to marry someone else. This devastating revelation robs her of

her last remnants of hope and security, leaving her to wonder what future she could possibly

have. Her pain is intensified by the innocence and optimism of her sister Nanette, who does

not fully understand the complexity and gravity of the situation. As the story progresses,

Flore is saved by Father Martial after attempting suicide and is taken to a Benedictine

convent. Here, she begins a process of healing and introspection, meeting various

characters who share their own stories and pains. Life in the convent provides her with a

respite from the turmoil of the outside world, but it cannot completely banish the memories

and suffering of her past.The relationship between Flore and Father Martial is complex, full

of tension and repressed desires. Martial, bound by his religious vows, feels a strong

attraction to Flore, and she is torn between the desire to accept his help and the need for


Interactions with Minnie offer moments of reflection and learning for Flore. Minnie, a lively

character with a deep understanding of Parisian realities, helps Flore integrate and

understand the social codes of the city. The lessons in etiquette and discussions about

meager wages provide a realistic perspective on the economic difficulties women faced

during that period. As the story unfolds, readers are taken through various iconic locations in

Paris, from famous cafes and brasseries to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre Museum.

The author masterfully describes the landscapes and Parisian atmosphere, making us feel

as if we are alongside Flore and Minnie in their explorations. The scenes are rich in detail,

from the hustle and beauty of the city to the hidden poverty beneath elegant facades.

The relationship between Flore and Martial adds a profound emotional dimension to the

story. Flore is grateful for Martial's support, and their feelings evolve in a natural and

believable manner. The author explores themes such as friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice, all

seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Along with Mary and Jojo, Martial navigates the

deserted streets of the city, where ancient trees have been cut down for fuel, and

once-proud regiments have been reduced to ragged national guards. The scene is painted

with brutal realism, describing the disappearance of the elegant silhouettes of ladies who

once walked their dogs to the Arc de Triomphe and the transformation of Paris into a

republic fueled by absinthe and despair.

Martial and Jules dedicate their lives to helping the community. Jules repairs wounded

soldiers, while Martial manages the municipal canteen, struggling to procure food for the

poor at a time when the black market thrives and food is increasingly scarce.

Martial was in charge of supplies for the cantine municipale, the parish soup kitchen. The

local priest who had hired Martial often expressed his relief at finding a man who would not

garner the food for his own gain. While supplies were dwindling, the black market thrived. If

you had money, it was still possible to procure what you wanted. The poor were dying one

by one, and in the communal cellars where food had been amassed in preparation for the

siege, the last scraps were dwindling, musty and dry.”

"The Sand Vines" by Michele Callard is a captivating narrative that blends historical drama

with personal emotion. Martial, the protagonist, faces challenges that compel him to

reexamine his values and loyalties. His love story with Flore, which crosses geographical

and social barriers, adds a powerful emotional dimension. Ultimately, their finding and

reunion symbolize the triumph of hope and human resilience. „Martial wrapped his arms

around her strong body and buried his face into her neck, inhaling great lungfuls of lavender

and cold cigar smoke, surprised at how sturdy she was, how real. The world swimming

around him, he clung to the moment, the wonderful, magical moment he had been dreaming

of forever. ” This fragment captures the essence of the character's journey, highlighting the

magical moment and palpable reality of their reunion, symbolizing both emotional release

and the fulfillment of dreams.Callard succeeds in transporting readers into the heart of the

action, making them feel the cold, hunger, and hope of her characters. It is a gripping read

that not only informs but also profoundly moves, reminding us of human resilience and

courage in the face of adversity.

"The Sand Vines" successfully combines historical fiction with complex character

development, offering an emotional and well-structured story. Michele Callard creates a

captivating literary universe, inviting readers to discover the Paris of yesteryear and be

carried away by the story of Flore and her friends. With refined writing and meticulous

attention to detail, this book is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction and authentic life



“The Sand Vines” by Michele Callard receives 4.5 stars from the Historical Fiction Company


To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit


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